By Ashley Varga

 

Flushable wipes.

 

Don’t lie, you know you use them. I certainly do.

 

When toilet paper just won’t cut it, it’s common to turn to that package of flushable wipes sitting on your bathroom vanity.

 

And you trust them, right? Because why would something that literally says flushable on the packaging lie to you?

 

Well…just a heads up. It’s lying right to your face and like me, you probably didn’t realize.

 

Shocked, yet? Stay tuned, it gets better.

 

Countless toiletry brands market their wipes as “flushable”, but my question is, do they even research the effects that these materials can have on our septic systems?

 

How can they market a material as “flushable” when so much more harm is being done beneath the surface that we don’t see or talk about?

 

I know, so many questions. But bear with me.

Wipes in the pipes are a huge problem in wastewater treatment. The pipes, pumps and equipment that process flushable waste in wastewater treatment systems are often not capable of handling such material.

 

The wipes do not break down and end up causing a backup in the systems. This results in a lot of internal problems, which cost a whole lotta money for the municipalities that service the tanks and such.

 

While researching this topic, I also learned that up to 90% of “flushable” materials are indeed NOT meant to be disposed down the drains.

 

Also while Googling this wipe situation, I stumbled upon Charleston Water, a public water and wastewater utility service, serving the Greater Charleston, South Carolina area. I found their information on this topic extremely useful and it really opened my eyes. Literally and figuratively, and you’ll see why.

 

So, back in October of 2018, Charleston Water sent divers 80-90 feet down into wet well/raw sewage IN COMPLETE DARKNESS to identify an obstruction that was causing a backup in the city’s sewage lines.

 

Guess what it ended up being?

 

Wait for it…

 

 

FLUSHABLE WIPES.

Flushable wipes after being taken out of a septic tank. Photo courtesy of Charleston Water

 

LOOK AT THAT PICTURE. LOOK AT IT.

 

It looks like something out of a horror movie.

 

You can pick your jaw back up off of the ground now.

 

This is so crazy to me and I am probably not alone.

 

I spoke with the Communications Manager at Charleston Water, Mike Saia, and he told me something that really resonated in my mind.

 

“People would stop flushing wipes forever if they had to spend just one second removing them from a wastewater collection system or treatment plant. The wastewater professionals doing this work are truly heroes.”

 

True superheroes.

 

I could not even imagine being one of those divers, searching for soggy, smelly, clumpy, rotten WIPES with my HANDS under COMPLETE DARKNESS, in an effort to recover and unclog pounds and pounds of materials that were unknowingly flushed.

 

I say unknowingly, because people just simply don’t know what harm can be done from these materials. They trust the packaging on these products, but CLEARLY the packaging is so, so wrong.

 

We need to FLUSH this misconception down the tubes, am I right?

 

Seriously though, there needs to be more education on this topic, to avoid problems like this in the future.

 

And this education needs to be most heavily targeted to the companies that market these wipes as “flushable.” It’s insane to me how these big brands can market their materials as being safe to flush when indeed that’s further from the truth. So misleading.

 

And we just uncovered the reasons why!

 

Quite honestly, after seeing what they can do to our systems (that image will forever be burned into my memory), I think twice before flushing them down the drain and you should too if you care about making our environment a safer place (or if you don’t want that BLOB above to be sitting in your sewage piping for years to come).

 

Want to uncover more info about this topic?

 

I found these articles helpful during my research and you might too:

 

https://franklinmiller.com/white-papers/impact-wipes-wastewater-treatment/

https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article223578715.html

s/local-news/new-york/inside-nyc-largest-wastewater-treatment-flushable-wipes

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